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August 26, 1994 - Image 159

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-08-26

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tion will support "anything that
sends a message and helps a
group of people be aware of the
Jewish perspective on the earth
and our responsibility to it."
A coalition consultation last
May brought together Jewish
scholars to exchange views on
what Judaism teaches about the
relationship between people and
the rest of God's creation.
The coalition expects to bring
the participants back together pe-
riodically to continue the discus-
sion and to prepare material for
sermons which will be distributed
on a quarterly basis to rabbis
across the movements and across
the country.
Also in development is what
Ms. Lawrence called a "flexible
curriculum' linking Judaism and
the environment that could be

used in courses in degree-grant-
ing Jewish communal service
programs and in rabbinical
Another project being planned
is a manual of model programs
on the environment run by syn-
agogues, havurot, Jewish com-
munity centers and schools.
In addition, the coalition is in-
vestigating cyberspace; it is ex-
ploring the possibility of bringing
Jews together on environmental
issues through an on-line net-
work, said Ms. Lawrence.
"If we can really connect peo-
ple to the faith tradition about
caring for God's creation, the pow-
er of that message can speak for
itself," said Ms. Lawrence. "It's
got to be beyond the agencies and
in the hearts of people in the

Coalition Vigilant
On Religious Freedom

Washington (JTA) — A broad-
based coalition of more than 60
religious and civil liberties
groups, including Jewish organi-
zations, have joined forces to op-
pose legal challenges to the
Religious Freedom and Restora-
tion Act.
Under the legislation passed
last year, no law can ban or re-
strict religious practices unless
the government proves a com-
pelling reason.
The coalition, which includes
the American Jewish Congress,
the American Jewish Committee
and the Union of Orthodox Jew-
ish Congregations, originally
united to support congressional
action on the bill.
The legislation was designed
to circumvent a 1990 Supreme
Court ruling that gave states

to Mark Pelavin, AJCongress'
Washington director.
It has now united to sign on to
friend-of-the-court briefs in six
pending lawsuits in New York,
he said.
Marc Stern, AJCongress' legal
counsel, wrote the briefs with as-
sistance from attorneys from oth-
er coalition members.
New York state has argued
that Congress, in passing the Re-
ligious Freedom Act, overstepped
its bounds by restricting powers
reserved for the states under the
The coalition, however, argues
in its briefs that "in enacting
RFRA, Congress was enforcing a
right with firm roots in constitu-
tional text and history."
There are currently 15 reli-
gious freedom-related cases in
courts across the country, ac-
cording to the Baptist Joint Com-
mittee, which is actively involved
in the coalition.
The coalition has chosen to
weigh in on those that involve
challenges to the law's constitu-
tionality, according to Mr.
The remaining cases primar-
ily focus on prisoner rights.
Members of the coalition in-
greater leeway in outlawing cer- clude groups as diverse as the
American Civil liberties Union,
tain religious practices.
The case, Oregon Employment the American Muslim Council
Division vs. Smith, dealt with the and the Christian Legal Society.
Among the other Jewish
use of the hallucinogen peyote in
Native American religious prac- groups involved in the coalition
include the Reform movement's
Jewish groups considered the Religious Action Center, the Anti-
ruling a dangerous precedent for Defamation League and B'nai
laws that could restrict such rit- B'rith.
Other supporters include Agu-
ual practices as kosher slaugh-
dath Israel of America, the Cen-
Since enactment of the legis- tral Conference of American
lation, the coalition has contin- Rabbis, the Council of Jewish
ued to meet regularly, according Federations.

The coalition has
chosen to weigh in
on those cases that
involve challenges
to the law's


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